I have been fortunate in my sales career to have had supportive managers, empathetic leaders and mentors who have encouraged and coached me up the ladder into leadership positions. The interesting fact is, bar one of these leaders, they were all male. According to a recent article by BCG there are fewer women leaders in sales than any other business function, other than supply chain and logistics. There is no doubt I sell differently to my male colleagues, not better or worse, just different, and upon reflection I think this is largely due to my gender, rather than my approach to life. This has not been without conflict and challenges, I assure you!
Confidence in the workplace comes from many things particularly experience and good management. My male leaders taught me wonderful skills – how not to be intimidated or scared of saying no in negotiations, how to compete, close the deal and many technical skills I use daily. My only female manager, when I worked in London, taught me the art and importance of sales preparation, persuasion, listening and how to collaborate to find solutions. It is these skills where women can really influence and guide a sales team.
Years ago, when I applied for a Head of Sales position, I knew I was the best person for the job, the position was made for me!! And yet I still found myself pouring over the job description, picking out the parts I doubted myself on, breaking out in a cold sweat when I thought about the challenges I may face in the role, but something still made me fight for it. It is these challenges, this deep inner uncertainty that I believe is often holding other female salespeople back. When you’re not so confident it’s hard to navigate these challenges without support.
In a rebounding economy, now more than ever, we need to support women into leadership roles with encouragement and flexibility. The buyer journey has rapidly changed and today’s tech savvy, more informed buyers have new expectations. Buyers are looking for lifetime customer value rather than short term solutions. The salesperson's role now must be on creating connection, adding value and solving the problem for the customer. Sales people now sit between the client and the company they work for, effectively working for both, as the trusted advisor. This plays to women strengths. Female sales leaders can really foster and nurture these skills within their team. Women excel in influencing and persuading, they generate a lot of natural honesty and trustworthiness which customers and sales teams’ value.
Networking, community, however you want to look at it, is also important if we are to see the gender dynamics within sales change. When I returned from London a few years ago after 15 years away I wanted to surround myself with a NZ network of like-minded ambitious and inspiring men and women. I joined Sales Syndicate which was extremely helpful, but even this group struggles to attract females (we're working on it!). Which takes me to my perfect segue, my 3rd baby! Celebrating Women In Sales, an event to celebrate the unique strengths that women can bring to sales is something I’ve been working hard on with the team at Indicator. It’s something so close to my heart. I have been overwhelmed at the response to this and so excited about the opportunities it will continue to bring.
Gender diversity changes the sales game by bringing new competencies, perspectives and skills to your organisation and gives you that competitive edge over less diverse competitors.
And that’s simply good business!
Oh and I can’t wait to meet you at the Indicator Celebrating Women in Sales Event. Book here!!